She had the sort of voice that made you want to cover your ears with a fast moving locomotive.
It had all the charm of pouring glass into your ears, without the sweet release of a perforated eardrum.
It was a voice that made you believe in eternal damnation.
It was all the worst parts of the worst accents, rolled in molasses, in that high, sing song tone that people seem to think children understand better, all recorded on a warped piece of vinyl and then left in the sun for three days and then played on a record player with a broken speed control and a worn needle, over a speaker system with torn cones.
It got under your skin and crawled up your bones like flesh eating scarabs, leaving torn nerve endings raw and exposed for the next wave to scrabble over. It combined, like a sensory deprivation Voltron, and made the eyes see the impossible, colours that couldn’t be, shapes that… That weren’t. Things dragged up from the dark.
It was a voice to wake the elder gods, a call for them to return and wreak bloody havoc.
And we would embrace death, just so the voice would stop. Make it stop.
It was worse, much worse, in real life.
“What do you want?” She said. Something long and sharp to stick into up my nose and swish about for a bit…
“I completed the job. I’m delivering.”
“Job’s cancelled.” She began to close the door. I gave her a look to stop it. Even though, right down to my very core, I wanted that door closed and the voice to stop.
“We had a deal.”
“Deals off. What are you going to do? Call the police?” She smirked, which was an unpleasant cap on a face that had lost all form courtesy of the outpouring of fingernails and chalkboards.
I let her close the door.
Call the police? And make them suffer your voice? No one deserves that. She was right though, I couldn’t go to the police, but I didn’t need to, I’d already stolen it from her, and replaced it with a copy, the better copy. She’d never know.
She’d called me over the phone to do the job. It was a little outside my normal purview, I preferred jewellery. A bronze ‘mirror’ atop a siren. Greek. Circa 450BCE. Sure, I could do it, but my Etsy store was doing quite well making replica celebrity jewellery, possibly more than if I’d been stealing the originals… I’m not entirely sure what that says.
She offered me quite a lot of money, enough to make me deeply suppress the Siren/voice comparison. Sometimes, it’s hard to not ask why someone wants something, but that’s not my job. Standard terms, half up front.
It was in a private collection, in a well to do area. I did my research online, at a university. Suitably anonymous. Paranoid, probably, but better to cover your tracks. It didn’t strike me as anything special, bronze, once highly polished but the mirror finish given over long ago to the patina of oxidisation, a not especially complicated siren supporting the frame on a short handle. Easy enough to copy, and the best way to copy the oxidisation is expose it to the elements with an accelerant. It’d take time.
The house where it ‘lived’ was for sale, which meant there was an added risk of the replacement being noticed when handled, but my replicas were pretty good, so unless it was handled by an expert, it was probably safe.
It was one of those McMansions, built to the edge of the block, high fences, a tiny backyard. Solid brick, the illusion of security. Surrounded by more, just like it, all ‘unique’… the neighbour across the way had their blinds open, showing off a massive TV, on, in an empty lounge room.
The windows were locked and alarmed, but no one thinks enough about ceilings: the wall was easy to scale, the skylight ajar, enough that the alarm circuit wasn’t complete. A quick loop, then abseiled down, the mission impossible tune playing in my head. The floor was tiled, so no pressure pads. The motion detector was off.
The glass case was easy, the keypad easily hacked. I lifted it out.
Even through the white gloves it felt wrong. Too light, and coarse. Green paint flaked in my hand. Plastic. Shoddy workmanship.
“She told me that you’d be coming.” Came a slurred voice from the next room.
“She… That horrible voice…” I heard the shudder. I echoed it. “She bought it, told me you’d come to steal it.”
“She was paying me to steal it…” I shook my head. Some people…
“I didn’t,” he staggered into the doorframe, leant on it for support, “I didn’t want to sell it.”
“Then why did you?”
“My wife got sick, need the money…” He slumped to the floor. “It was her favourite piece.” There was a deep sadness in his voice.
“Have you called the police?”
“I’ll get it back for you.”
“Why would you do that?”
“To make it right.”
Well, that and because she’d sold me out. And I owed her some payback. And the sick wife and all… Besides, she’d paid me to steal it. I planned to steal it.
We shared an awkward moment of my leaving – the rope was still attached to the skylight, so I ended up going out the way I came in. I think he would’ve preferred me to have left through the front door. But do you really want a masked man leaving that way? What would the neighbours say?
So I’d ended up at her house…
It amused me that she had expressed no shock that I’d turned up here. It hadn’t been a detail that we’d exchanged.
It amused me that I’d gained entry the same was as at the McMansion.
It amused me that the good replica, my replica, was in the wall safe of the bedroom, and she’d never be the wiser – the original, back in its glass case ready to be moved into wherever they were moving to.
It amused me that even with only the deposit, I’d still been paid pretty well.
Mostly though, I was just glad that I’d never hear that damned voice again.